Hurlbut's Story of the Bible  by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

From the Land of Famine to the Land of Plenty

Genesis xlv: 25, to l: 26.

dropcap image O Joseph's eleven brothers went home to their old father with the glad news that Joseph was alive and was ruler over the land. It was such a joyful surprise to Jacob that he fainted. But after a time he revived; and when they showed him the wagons that Joseph had sent to bring him and his family to Egypt, old Jacob said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die."

Then they went on their journey, with their wives, and children, and servants, and sheep and cattle, a great company. They stopped to rest at Beersheba, which had been the home of Isaac and of Abraham, and made offerings to the Lord, and worshipped. And that night the Lord appeared to Jacob, and said to him:

"Jacob, I am the Lord, the God of your father; fear not to go down to Egypt; for I will go down with you; and there you shall see your son Joseph; and in Egypt I will make of your descendants, those that come from you, a great people; and I will surely bring them back again to this land."

They came down to Egypt, sixty-six of Jacob's children and grand-children. Joseph rode in his chariot to meet his father, and fell on his neck, and wept upon him. And Jacob said, "Now, I am ready to die, since I know that you are still alive; and I have seen your face." And Joseph brought his father in to see King Pharaoh; and Jacob, as an old man, gave his blessing to the king.


Joseph brings Jacob to Pharaoh.

The part of the land of Egypt where Joseph found for his brothers a home, was called Goshen. It was on the east, between Egypt and the desert, and it was a very rich land, where the soil gave large harvests. But at that time, and for five years after, there were no crops, because of the famine that was in the land. During those years, the people of Israel in the land of Goshen, were fed as were all the people of Egypt, with grain from the store-houses of Joseph.

Jacob lived to be almost a hundred and fifty years old. Before he died he blessed Joseph and all his sons, and said to them:

"When I die, do not bury me in the land of Egypt, but take my body to the land of Canaan, and bury me in the cave at Hebron, with Abraham, and Isaac my father."

And Joseph brought his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to his father's bed, Jacob's eyes were dim with age, as his father Isaac's had been (see Story Twelve), and he would not see the two young men. And he said, "Who are these?"

And Joseph said, "They are my two sons, whom God has given me in this land."

"Bring them to me," said Jacob, "that I may bless them before I die."

And Jacob kissed them, and put his arms around them, and he said:

"I had not thought that I should ever see your face, my son; and God has let me see both you and your children also."

And Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim's head, the younger, and his left on Manasseh the older. Joseph tried to change his father's hands, so that his right hand should be on the older son's head. But Jacob would not allow him, and he said:

"I know what I am doing, God will bless the older son; but the greater blessing shall be with the younger, for his descendants, those who spring from him, shall be greater and stronger than the descendants of his brother."

And so it came to pass many years after this; for the tribe of Ephraim, the younger son, became greater and more powerful than the tribe of Manasseh, the older son.

When Jacob died a great funeral was held. They carried his body up out of Egypt to the land of Canaan, and buried it,—as he had said to them,—in the cave of Machpelah, where Abraham and Isaac were buried already.


The tomb of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

When the sons of Jacob came back to Egypt after the burial of their father, they said one to another:

"It may be that Joseph will punish us, now that his father is dead, for the wrong that we did to him many years ago."

And they sent a message, asking Joseph to forgive them, for his father's sake. And again they came and bowed down before him, with their faces to the ground; they said, "We are your servants; be merciful to us."

Jacob wept when his brothers spoke to him, and he said:

"Fear not. Am I in God's place to punish and to reward? It is true that you meant evil to me, but God turned it to good, so that all your families might be kept alive. Do not be afraid; I will care for you, and for your children."

After this Joseph lived to a good old age, until he was a hundred and ten years old. Before he died he said to his children, and to all the children of Israel, who had now increased to very many people:

"I am going to die; but God will come to you, and will bring you up out of this land, into your own land, which he promised to your fathers, to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. When I die do not bury me in Egypt, but keep my body until you go out of this land, and take it with you."

So when Joseph died they embalmed his body, as the Egyptians embalmed the dead; so that the body would not decay, and they placed his body in a stone coffin, and kept it in the land of Goshen among the people of Israel. Thus Joseph not only showed his faith in God's promise, that he would bring his people back to the land of Canaan; but he also encouraged the faith of those who came after him. For as often as the Israelites looked on the stone coffin that held the body of Joseph, they said to one another:

"There is the token, the sign, that this land is not our home. This coffin will not be buried until we bury it in our own land, the land of Canaan, where God will lead us in his own time."